Disney opens up ‘digital locker’ in latest blow against Netflix


Disney just opened up a major new front in the war on Netflix – and it’s got the backing of some big Hollywood studios to support it.

If anyone doubts how serious Disney is at putting Netflix in its place, look no further than Mickey Mouse’s latest digital decision.

Earlier in the year, Disney CEO Bob Iger confirmed plans for Disney to launch its own content streaming service, an announcement backed up by the decision to pull Marvel and Star Wars properties away from Netflix.

It was a bold statement of direction, but as we noted last year, even Mickey and Minnie’s global brand isn’t invulnerable when it comes to digital disruption and Disney needed to explore new ways to deliver its own content in a Netflix-centric media environment.

Hence the decision to get into the digital content provider game itself. This had the immediate effect of depressing Netflix’s share price, but also raised some questions among a number of commentators – not least dignomica’s own Jon Reed – as to how many streaming platforms the average punter is prepared to (a) pay for (b) able to actually watch.

This is something I’ve encountered myself. In the UK, I’m a subscriber to Amazon Prime, Netflix and NowTV. I had the BBC Store app on my iPad, before the BBC managed to screw the whole thing up! Meanwhile I’ve also got BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, 4 On Demand and TV Player, none of which I have to pay for.

So will I add Disney to the portfolio when it becomes available to me? I’d have said no until yesterday when the firm pulled a blinder with the announcement of Movies Anywhere, a “digital locker” for content sourced from Amazon, iTunes and Google Play.

Sign up to the free app or website, connect existing content accounts to Movies Anywhere, then access purchased content from them via the new service. It offers support for devices including Amazon Fire, Android devices. Android TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, iPhone, iPad and Roku.

A notable omission in the list of compatible streaming services is Netflix.


Disney’s new offering launches today in the US with 7,300 digital movies, along with previews and extras from the studios. The intention is also to dfeliver new titles before they become available on other streaming platforms. For that to work, Disney needs the support of the big movies studios and this is where this move becomes a serious threat to the likes of Netflix.

Movies Anywhere has Sony Pictures Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox Film, Universal Pictures and Warner Bros. Entertainment on board, as well as The Walt Disney Studios, which takes in Disney, Pixar, Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm. The only big name not on the roster is Paramount – and negotiations are apparently underway to sort that out as soon as possible.

The new service will be run as a Disney-owned entity, with an advisory board that’s made up of representatives from the various studios. Walt Disney Studios senior vice president, Karin Gilford has taken on the role of Movies Anywhere’s general manager, and pitches this as “one stop movie-watching” that will make viewer’s lives easier:

Consumers never have to remember where they purchased a film or which device they can watch it on, because all of their eligible movies will be centralized within their Movies Anywhere library and available across platforms through the Movies Anywhere app and website and also available at their connected digital retailers.

My take

Memo to Netflix – it’s war!!!

Image credit - Movies Anywhere